Top 10 movies of 2013 critics' picks: Patty Jones

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Following the principle of delayed gratification, sometime after the turkey, the plum pudding, the forced gaiety, and the bitter regret, this writer will fall face first into the next course from the brothers Coen.

American Hustle
The ’70s hair parade alone would have made us deliriously happy. And who cares whether or not the real Abscam sting op happened anything like David O. Russell’s kitschy, canny caper? It’s damn disco-ball entertaining, there’s con-artist love, and Jennifer Lawrence sings “Live and Let Die” while wearing yellow rubber gloves.

Nebraska
That profile shot of Bruce Dern’s head is a glorious celebration of human spirit—and crazy-old-man hair—that won’t be kept down. In his father-son road trip, Alexander Payne hilariously skewers Middle America and evokes sweet empathy for its mired generations of men. It’s okay if the lovely black-and-white cinematography makes you want to weep. After that, you can laugh at those numbskull cousins.

Gravity
This movie confirms both how ridiculously beautiful Earth looks from 372 miles above and how we’re okay with never having that view for real, thanks anyway. Alfonso Cuarón delivers head-ducking scares and magical outer-space poetry, while tap-tapping on our unspeakable into-the-void anxiety. Weirdly, no freeze-dried ice cream.

Blue Jasmine
Cate Blanchett plays the first neurotic Woody Allen heroine ever. Kidding. Dependent on vodka, pills, that inimitable dialogue, and the kindness of strangers, Blanchett brilliantly riffs on Blanche DuBois. When it comes to Woody’s tragicomic characters and their crimes and misdemeanours, it would be a perfectly fine thing for cinema if their Xanax never kicked in.

Frances Ha
Well, it would be easy to call this Girls meets French new wave meets Woody Allen. Like, you know, I just did. But actually, it’s Noah Baumbach meets Greta Gerwig, and boyfriend and girlfriend make a funny, buoyant, burbly ode to, well, her, and New York (in Manhattan black-and-white), and that goofily tenuous grasp on adulthood that we all have in our 20s. Had. Still do.

Before Midnight
Apparently, they’re never going to stop talking. But it’s a good thing. On our third shamelessly into-it eavesdropping session with Céline and Jesse, aka Julie Delpy and Ethan Hawke (and cowriter-director Richard Linklater), they’re older but still pretty in the Peloponnese. Maybe it’s all those ancient Greek ruins, but these are two people staring into that scary relationship abyss. Edgier, still romantic, stay tuned for After Noon.

Spring Breakers
Finally, someone mashed Scarface and Girls Gone Wild. If Florida spring break didn’t already make you worry about Earth’s future, this arty-nasty, melancholy hallucination of debauched youth-and-criminal culture by Harmony Korine (who else?) will. Gangsta coeds wield machine guns. James Franco (who else?) wields Franco weirdness as a grillz-sporting, hip-hoppy drug dealer. Come on, y’all, why you actin’ s’picious?

Short Term 12
You feel so many emotions for these damaged teens in a temporary-care facility—and their also painfully young caretakers—that you kinda forget they’re actors. Writer-director Destin Cretton has made a film that feels beautifully real. And there’s a funny diarrhea story that actually flows. Sorry.

This Is the End
Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg bring the apocalypse to Los Angeles, specifically James Franco’s front yard. This may be the best idea anyone has ever had on weed.

The Wolf of Wall Street
Take notes, Caligula. This here is some epic unhinged debauchery. Thank God that wily master, Martin Scorsese, makes it all electrically hilarious instead of wagging a stodgy finger at his amoral stockbroker goodfellas. Funniest telephone scene ever. Coke and Quaaludes are ingested during 99.9 percent of the movie. Wait—Marty, you can do better.

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